Why writing a book isn’t enough to sell it


I sometimes come across the occasional author who will write a book and get it published, and once that’s all done s/he thinks their job is done. S/he waits for the sales to come in, and does very little, if anything, to promote the book. S/he might even argue that it isn’t his/her job to promote the book. Unfortunately such an argument is a denial of the reality that the best sales person for a book is the person who wrote it.

I’m an author myself, as well as an editor/publisher, which gives me a holistic perspective of the entire industry. Immanion Press is a small publisher. We have a tight budget, and so while we edit and publish the book and even promote it by sending out review copies to the appropriate reviewers and offering publicity advice to our authors, in the end we expect that authors will do a lot of the foot work of promoting and marketing their books. Additionally, while we have some distribution channels, we are a print on demand publisher, which means our books don’t get put on the shelves of the big book stories. because if not enough copies sell those books get returned to us, which can actually cause a significant financial issue and has killed many a small press in its time. Anyone who wants to get published by us is expected to be ready to promote and market themselves. We can help, but you also have to help.

However, even with larger publishers that operate on a conventional model of publishing, and can offer some publicity and marketing resources we don’t have to offer, there is still an expectation that the author will actually market his/her book to the target audience that will read the book. Unfortunately a lot of authors don’t promote their books. They are in love with writing the book, and getting royalties from it, and perhaps being recognized and asked to sign a copy of the book. What they don’t realize is that their books is carried as a result of the very successful authors who are marketing and promoting their books. Each year a publisher has to pay a fee to keep a book in print and usually that fee is covered by the income derived from the sale of the successful books. The less than successful books are carried along, and the author who doesn’t promote his/her books just sits on his/her laurel, content to let others do the work.

I think it should be an industry expectation that a given author will actually go out and sell his/her book. S/he may say it’s not her job and that s/he just wanted to write the book, but the truth is that while a book is a commitment, the truly hard work doesn’t begin until the book is published and the author actually needs to promote it.

This means the author needs to present workshops at conventions, but also at book stores. This means the author needs to write articles for relevant sites that reach his/her target audience. This means the author needs to get interviewed on radio shows and in magazines that his/her target audiences listens to and/or reads. This means the author has to create a website/blog and maintain a social media presence that is used to connect with his/her target audience on a regular basis. This means an author has to realize that by writing a book s/he started a business and if s/he wants that business to succeed then s/he has to get off the laurels and start working. Any author who doesn’t want to do all of that work shouldn’t write a book and certainly shouldn’t expect a publisher to bear the onus of selling the book.

A good author works with his/her publisher. S/he actively markets his/her book and keeps the publisher in the loop so the that the publisher can actively help in the promotion of the book. And the publisher in turn does what it can to distribute the book, and market the author by promoting what the author is doing via their own social media channels and through other mediums as well. The job isn’t done by just one or the other but by both to make the book successful.

Why a Title can Make or Break Your Book

A book title is similar to the cover of a book. It ideally provides a potential reader a summary of what the book is about and invites him/her to open the cover of the book and discover the secrets within. However not all titles are equal and sometimes a book title is just confusing or misleading. Recently I vended at the Esoteric Book Conference which occurs every year in Seattle. As you can imagine, I spent a fair amount of time browsing the other book vendors and looking at the titles can covers, and occasionally peeking inside to see if I really wanted to buy a book. Inevitably the books that I did buy were ones that had a title that was descriptive and helped me determine if I wanted to invest my money.

I also saw titles that were non-descriptive, and not just with other book vendors, but even some of the books we publish at Immanion Press. I realized that a bad title is a disservice. It is a disservice to the book, the author, the publisher, and most importantly the reader. My job as an editor isn’t just to help the writer refine the content of the book, but also make the best possible title for the book.

An author also needs to think about his/her title. I find that a lot of authors don’t put a lot of thought into a title. They pick something out that they like and they entertain this belief that their readers will somehow “get” the title. They try to be “clever” with the title, or make it humorous, and along the way they lose most of their market. The reason is simple. People aren’t buying your book to read your title. They are buying your book to read your content. Save the humor and cleverness for the book and recognize that your title is a description that gives people an idea of what the content will be about. Think of your title as a summary of your book.

My most recent book Magical Identity was originally titled Neuro-Space/Time Magic. I liked that title and thought it accurately described my book, and to a degree it did, as the book is a sequel to both Space/Time Magic and Inner Alchemy, but a friend pointed out that the main theme of the book, Identity, wasn’t anywhere in the title. She thought people might get confused when they didn’t read about neuroscience or space/time magic until five chapters into the book. She was absolutely right and I took her suggestion and went with Magical Identity, which describes the central theme of the book. But the main title isn’t always enough.

A subtitle can be just as important for your book, both in terms of summarizing the concepts, and in providing some useful search engine optimization terms of the web. I’m surprised at how many authors don’t create a subtitle for their book. It’s something I highly recommend, because even if it doesn’t show up on the cover, the value it provides for search engine optimization should be reason enough to develop a subtitle. With Magical Identity, I chose the following subtitle: An Exploration of Space/Time, Neuroscience, and Identity. As you can tell the subtitle hits on all the themes of the book and neatly provides the reader an idea of what the book will be about. Compare that to a subtitle I saw on another book: A book about stuff. That subtitle doesn’t mean anything and was used as a way of trying to be clever. All its really done is ensure that books don’t get sold.

So what’s the lesson here? Thoroughly vet your title and make sure it makes sense to your market. Remember that your audience needs to understand the title or they won’t pick up the book. And develop a subtitle that helps summarize the themes of your book. You’ll be much happier as a result and your title will help you book sell.

Literary Festivals

A list of all literary festivals in Canada & Some US. Literary Festivals can be used by authors to promote themselves, some festivals ask for authors to pay for a booth area, but it might be considered a good investment to have visible presence. I will try to find a list for the USA too. Authors should contact the festival and let them know they are available for lectures and find out if there are options to speak at the festival or have a booth. I should also point out that for booth’s authors may need to have a fair number of their own books in stock to sell.